It may have been the second Diamond League since London 2012 but last night’s showdown in Switzerland was the biggest yet with dozens of Olympic medallists lining up to take the stage once more and prove that class is permanent.
Okay, some athletics meet for a few hours on a European evening isn’t exactly the same as watching the world’s elite duking it out in the Olympic Stadium, but it was a decent second as the likes of Bolt and Blake tore up their respective event to get people yearning for that Olympic feeling once again. Most of the important events were there for one gender or another and, most importantly, they were “finals” so the action came thick and fast.
“Team GB” (as they weren’t referred to here) were well represented and once again they didn’t disappoint us. Sadly, no winners this time, but plenty of podium finishes… had there been a podium. Only one of our medallists from London 2012 were in attendance, presumably because they’re still too busy polishing their prizes and lapping up the adulation. Back in the real world, Robbie Grabarz, bronze medallist in the high jump, came to Lausanne determined to improve on this and improve he did, grabbing a new British record in the process. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough in the hugely competitive match as two others bested his earlier jumps and a couple of faults earlier on proved costly for Robbie. Still, he’s improving all the time and was happy with his third place.
When you think of the discus, most people would think of Lawrence Okoye’s celebration after his third throw in the heat that saw him progress into the Olympic final. None of that exuberance here, but his first throw of six was his overall best of the entire meet. What’s more, he was leading the field after the first two throws, but overall leader Gerd Kanter of Estonia eventually overtook him to claim the win. Okoye’s 3 “diamond points” (whatever they are) moved him into sixth place overall.
It was another less than astounding run for Perry Shakes-Drayton in the 400m hurdles. After claiming the win in the last race before the Olympics, she was left gutted when she failed to qualify for the final, then to be reprieved after another athlete was disqualified, only to be eliminated once again on appeal. That disappointment wasn’t entirely forgotten about as this competition began but she claimed a respectable third place. The other “podium” finisher was Steve Lewis, coming third in the pole vault to give him his first top-three finish of the season.
Elsewhere, Cuban-born Tamilé Aldama retired from the triple jump after fouling twice and Shara Proctor, who finished a disappointing ninth in the Olympic long jump recovered here to claim fourth place. Although the attention in the 400m was for Grenada’s Kirani James, it doesn’t take away the fact that Britain’s Martyn Rooney and Conrad Williams finished a poor 6th and 8th respectively.
It’s possibly a post for another time, but the Diamond League is a complete mess, with a pointless scoring system and an inability to have all the top athletes competing at the same time. Money is the word and it seems to be a situation not repeated anywhere else in the sporting calendar. I’ll cover it in more detail when Mo Farah takes to the Birmingham Diamond League.
Amid cries that there just wasn’t enough football in the week, along came a Best of British clash in the Europa League between Hearts and Liverpool. Or, at least, it would have been a “best of” had it not been a showdown between the 5th and 8th placed teams in last season’s Scottish and English Premier Leagues respectively, only qualifying as cup winners. The match, as it happened, was just as dreary as this build-up suggested.
Liverpool didn’t send a full squad but it still contained the likes of Stewart Downing, who still baffles the world as to his inclusion in a first-class XI. Coming on as stand-in at left-back, you wonder if he might as well stay there so the focus on his inability to score goals or create assists would slowly fade away. Elsewhere, the ancient Jamie Carragher was full of mistakes, Jordan Henderson continues to show his age at the other end of the scale and Charlie Adam played well on occasion but was always prevented from excelling by the Scots. The only true bonuses on the British front were Martin Kelly, who’s cross expertly found the leg of Andy Webster to claim an own goal, Raheem Sterling, the part-Jamaican who showed Downing just how it is done on almost all fronts. He’s an excellent prospect, provided he continues on the England path instead of emigrating to the markedly warmed Caribbean. The match finished 1-0 to Liverpool and everyone in the world hopes Hearts win at Anfield.
Earlier on, Newcastle gained a less than satisfactory 1-1 draw against Greece’s Atromitos, with a goal coming from Ryan Taylor’s free kick. Motherwell have pretty much ended their European hopes by losing the first leg at home to Levante 2-0.
Paul Lawrie was well placed last night after finishing the first day of the Johnny Walker Championship at Gleneagles with a share of second at -4 with relative unknown Mark Foster. Scotland’s Richie Ramsay also finished the day in the top ten with a score of 69.
Over the pond at The Barclays tournament as part of the PGA Tour, Gary Christian, one of Britain’s highese finishers last week, finished the first day tied on fourth with an impressive score of -5, two away from leader Padraig Harrington of Ireland. Ian Poulter and Justin Rose are just behind on -4. Luke Donald brings up the rear T15 on -3 but USPGA winner Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood are both slouching on -2.
It was a disappointing day for British racers in the America’s Cup World Series after such a promising start in qualifying. Both Italian boats containing British helmsmen were defeated by their respective Swedish and American rivals, with Ben Ainslie Racing yet to race the New Zealanders. It was also a day for multiple fleet races, in which several yachts sail at once. Luna Rossa Piranha was the most successful of the trio at the end of it all, coming third in the first race but eighth in the next. In the overall standings, BAR are just behind with a tenth and fifth to show for their day. Luna Rossa Swordfish got off to a terrible start, languishing at the bottom with just five points from a possible 24, but at least they aren’t rock-bottom China Team.
Chris Froome was unable to hold on to his slender lead in the Vuelta a Espana yesterday. In the last couple of kilometres, Froome was given a magnificent lead out by his Team Sky team-mates on the mountain finish but it still wasn’t enough to hold off red jersey wearer Rodriguez. The Brit looked leggy on the final climb and was somewhat lucky that nobody was close enough behind him to take away his runner-up honour at the last second, with Valverde a further five seconds back. Taking into account time bonuses, Froome is now ten seconds off the pace but still some way off Contador in third place.
The majority of the preliminary rounds of snooker’s European Tour Event 1, the Paul Hunter Classic, were completed yesterday without too much fanfare. Perhaps the only real top player to perform was Northern Irishman Joe Swail, who beat Croat Bero Cerinski 4 frames to nil. His second round match with Wales’ Jack Bradford is still to be played.
Lancashire beat Essex 187-2 to 186 to win by 8 wickets in cricket’s Clydesdale Bank 40 competition. That’s it. Carry on.
In yesterday’s only Rugby League action, Leigh Centurions comfortably hammered Keighley Cougars 40-14 in the Co-operative Championship.